Beat a dead horse and flog a dead horse

Photo of author


Beat a dead horse and flog a dead horse are two idioms that mean the same thing. An idiom is a figure of speech that is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. We will examine the definition of the phrases beat a dead horse and flog a dead horse, where these terms may have come from and some examples of their use in sentences.

To beat a dead horse or to flog a dead horse means to belabor a point, to continue in a particular action that is a waste of time or has no chance of being successful. To beat a dead horse or to flog a dead horse may also mean to want to continue a pointless discussion. The phrase conjures up the image of beating a lifeless horse, expecting it to get up and pull a wagon. This is obviously an attempt doomed to failure. While the idioms beat a dead horse and flog a dead horse came into general use in the mid-1800s, many believe these phrases are derived from sailors’ slang of the 1600s. Sailors were paid wages for their first month of work before it was performed. This month of pre-paid work was known as dead horse. After the first month of their voyage, seamen sometimes performed a ceremony known as Flogging the Dead Horse, to mark the ending of their owed work time. Beat a dead horse is primarily the American version of the idiom, flog a dead horse is primarily the British version.


“I mean, all of this is predicated by the fact that they had until June 30 of 2019 to exit the real estate, and, I think, we don’t want to kind of beat a dead horse now, because we’ve got to move on and resolve this issue, but that’s certainly part of this continuum of how they devised and implemented their exit strategy.“ (The Signal Tribune)

“Unfortunately, Jeff Sessions is choosing to beat a dead horse to death by trying to just really claw onto that failed war on drugs.” (The Daily UW)

Hill said he didn’t want to flog a dead horse and having floated the name-change idea in the public, would like to step back. (The New Zealand Herald)